Investors push to end use of antibiotics in food production

A group of large international investors managing $1.87 trillion in assets is urging major US and British restaurant groups to stop using antibiotics in in their meat supply chains.

AAP reports that the campaign is in response to  warnings from the World Health Organisation that overuse of antibiotics is increasing resistance to the drugs and could lead us to a “post-antibiotic era”.

The group of investors behind the campaign includes Aviva Investors, the £290bn UK fund house, Natixis Asset Management, the €331bn French asset manager, and Coller Capital, the private equity firm.

The restaurant groups they are targeting are McDonalds, JD Wetherspoon, The Wendy’s Company,Domino’s Pizza Group , Brinker International, Darden Restaurants, Mitchells & Butlers, Restaurant Brands International , Restaurant Group, and Yum! Brands.

Noting that her company has “exposure to pharmaceutical companies, food retailers and food producers”, Abigail Herron, head of responsible investment engagement at Aviva Investors said the issue is “systemically important”.

“We face potentially unmitigated health and financial impacts if the excessive use of antibiotics in livestock production is not addressed,” she said.

“It is pretty scary. Resistance to antibiotics is developing far faster than antibiotics are being developed. We need to be preserving what antibiotics we have left and not using them [in food production].”

Currently, eighty per cent of antibiotics produced in the US are given to livestock. The drugs are used to treat infections but are also sometimes used to promote growth and improve feed efficiency.

Domino’s said its suppliers are only permitted to use antibiotics to treat infection.

McDonald’s said it is “monitoring, controlling and reducing the use of antibiotics among chickens in our supply chain”. “We have a policy that bans the use of the highest-priority critically important antibiotics for human medicine, as designated by [the] WHO, in our chicken supply chain by 2018,” it added.